Saturday, May 30, 2009
The American gothic movement is often said to have begun with the book Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown, which was published in 1798 and was based in part on an incident in which a New York farmer murdered his wife and children after he was told to by voices. The next two big names to appear on the American scene were Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Poe worked mostly in short stories and poetry. Perhaps his most gothic story was “The Fall of the House of Usher,” which he wrote in 1839. His classic gothic poem was, of course, “The Raven,” which saw print in 1845. Hawthorne’s classic gothic novel was The House of the Seven Gables, published in 1851.
Poe and Hawthorne represent early extremes in how they expressed the gothic impulse in their writings. Poe reveled in the dark emotional excesses of the field, in grisly murders and wild madness. Hawthorne’s work was more subtle and ironic, with his revenants harnessed toward literary, moral, and political ends. But it was Poe whose influence was felt most strongly in the development of the early twentieth century horror pulps like Terror Tales and Weird Tales, the latter of which took its very title from Poe’s poetry. And it is Poe to whom most modern American horror writers look to as their primary literary ancestor. I certainly think of him that way, and I can hardly see a crow or a raven without being reminded of Poe’s darkness.
I was pleased back in 1995 to have two pieces in Once Upon a Midnight…, a poetry collection honoring “The Raven.” Now, not quite fifteen years later, I’m very happy to be involved with another of Poe’s Ravens. A new print anthology of short stories and poetry inspired directly by Poe’s own work has just been published. It’s called, Return of the Raven. My contribution to the anthology is a story called “A Curse the Dead Must Bear.” The book is published by Horror Bound Online, and if you’re interested you can find out more about it here. It’s kind of nice to see my name listed on the cover rather than lumped in with, “and others.”